THE ELUSIVE IXDIA.X II
Now all these ladies, in their way, have shining qualities, but"
they would be the first to agree that they do not immediately
suggest themselves as typical of the legendary nauteh girl. Of
course, it was not really these ladies who were dancing past, but
their Indian doubles ; and the reason why such comparatively
mature persons were gyrating for our benefit was because the
profession of nautch girl, in Mysore, is rapidly dying out. These
were the best they could get.
But they were a shock, particularly the oriental Miss Pitts, who
twisted her hips and wobbled her neck in a manner that may have
appealed to the Hindu gods but was somewhat frightening to the
This would never do.
It was nearly dark ; soon my friend would come back from his
snake-bitten coolie, and I had not even begun to answer his
'Have you ever met an Indian ?'
Met an Indian ? An Indian ?
How many Indians had I met? To speak to...at least a
thousand. But it would be hopeless to try to remember them
Supposing we generalized ? Supposing we looked at India, as it
were, from a great height, dividing the broad masses of the
population into separate groups, like those fascinating relief
pictures which help the layman to grasp the outlines of a great
battle ? Maybe that would help.
First group. 180 million caste Hindus. They were Indians all
right, the very core of India. But wait a minute.. .were they ?
"What about the 60 million non-caste Hindus who were standing^ or
rather grovelling, in their dust ? Were they Indians too ? Accord-
ing to the caste Hindus, they were not even men and women I
They were/ untouchable.' To drink from the same cup would be
spiritual poison; their very shadow was pollution. Some of them